One thing that I get asked about a lot is how to cook for one. I understand that the “effort” put into cooking for yourself can feel like a challenge, but really, once you get into a rhythm it’s habit more than effort. Plus, your bank account and body will thank you.
Cooking for One Guide:
- Don’t over shop. Only buy what you need for perishable items. Write a list before heading to the store and stick to it! When writing your list, consider your schedule. What nights will you be gone? What do your days look like? Buy your core staple fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat that you’ll eat on a daily basis and then only buy enough extras to fill in for meals that you’ll be around.
- Cook from the same ingredient list. This piggybacks on point #1. If you work with recipes within a scope of ingredients you buy normally then you don’t have as much waste. Buy a bag of arugula and see how many different ways you can use it that week. Use it in a salad, make a pesto, saute it with white beans and pancetta. The possibilities are endless.
- Have themed weeks. This ties into point #2. Have a week where you eat Mexican and buy salsa, guacamole, black beans, and cotija that can be used to make jicama tacos, a Mexican salad, paired with sweet potatoes and eggs for breakfast, etc.
- Keep the pantry stocked. Having some versatile ingredients for a quick meal will save time, money, and lingering leftovers. Items like canned beans, canned tuna, rice, canned tomatoes, and nuts/seeds are great pantry staples to whip up a meal at a moment’s notice.
- Buy in bulk. Buying bulk bin items (dried grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.) will allow you to only buy what you need instead of being stuck with a massive bag of something that goes bad or sits in your pantry forever. In a lot of health food stores, you can also buy oil, honey, and spices in bulk too.
- Check the servings and scale. How often does it happen where you don’t realize you’ve made a TON of food until you’re at the end of cooking? To avoid this, always look at the serving size of the recipes you’re making and either have a plan for the excess or cut the recipe in half or thirds. I wouldn’t recommend scaling down more than 3 times or else you’ll start getting into the “1/8th tsp of salt” realm and it’ll get weird.
- Get on a rotation. Sometimes it’s easy to get in a food rut. Especially when busy or stressed and nothing sounds appealing or you can’t decide what to have. Having a very general rotation that has enough room for variety to keep things interesting will help during these times. Here’s an example:
- Monday: hearty salad
- Tuesday: meat, roasted vegetables, and grain
- Wednesday: stir fry
- Thursday: soup
- Friday: leftover soup
- Saturday: New recipe
- Sunday: sushi
- Don’t be afraid to cook in large batches. I think when cooking for one we get scared of anything that serves more than 2. There are two ways to go about this:
- Use your freezer! Portion out your large batches into single serving pyrex and freeze them. Your lazy future self will thank you.
- Repurpose your leftovers. On day one make something simple like pork tenderloin, vegetables, and rice. For day 2, make lettuce cups filled with your day 1 meal. With day 3, turn your day 1 meal into fried rice. Day 4 add Thai red curry paste and coconut milk to turn it into a curry. If you give yourself something really basic to start you can dress it up in a variety of ways later on in the week.
- Swap leftovers. Find friends who also cook a lot (whether they are solo or not) and swap leftovers with them. It makes for a fun and affordable way to keep cooking for one interesting, while also offloading your extras.
- Stop seeing it as a negative thing. A lot of times when talking about cooking for one it seems like people think of it as a disadvantage in the kitchen. Are you kidding me??? You can eat whatever you want all the time and don’t have to consider anyone else’s preferences, food allergies, or cravings. Enjoy it and treat yo self.
If you’re feeling a little lost of where to start, check out our Smoked Turkey Collard Green Stew, Banana Pancakes, or Avocado Tuna Salad recipes to get cookin! You can also click on the “Cooking for One” tag below to get all applicable recipes in one place!